|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
Once prepared, these stuffed Greek eggplant halves topped with béchamel sauce look like "papoutsakia." This is Greek for "little shoes." Try filling the eggplant with a chunky texture. You may also try the alternative preparations included for a smoother sauce and no tomato on top.
If you enjoy Greek food and want to learn how to prepare it, this recipe will be a treat for you. If you're of Greek heritage, see how this recipe compares to the family recipes shared by your relatives. And know that the contents of this dish - vegetables and protein - make it nutrient rich.
- 6 small eggplants (6-7 inches long each)
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 2 cloves garlic (minced; if garlic is a problem, substitute with 2-3 scallions)
- 1 medium onion (finely chopped or grated)
- 1/2 cup parsley (chopped)
- 2 cups tomatoes (peeled, cored, and finely chopped)
- 5 to 10 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup kefalotyri cheese (or pecorino or parmesan, grated)
- 12 slices tomato (very thin)
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- For the Béchamel Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup milk (slightly warm)
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 1 pinch nutmeg (or to taste)
- 1 to 2 egg yolks
Wash and dry the eggplants, trim off stems, and cut in half, lengthwise. With a small knife or spoon, scoop out the pulp of the egglant, leaving a shell about 1/8 inch thick. Take care not to break through the skin of the eggplant. (Note: If you haven't done this before, take your time. The pulp will be chopped up and used in the filling, so it can come out a piece at a time.)
Using a spoon, scoop out seeds from the center and discard. Start at the center of the eggplant half and work your way outward.
Using a knife, remove and discard seeds, then carefully slice around the edge, leaving a small layer of pulp next to the skin; continue to cut, moving in toward the center.
Chop the pulp and set it aside.
Preheat large frying pan (with cover) on low heat.
When the frying pan has preheated, increase the heat and sauté the onions (both types if you're using scallions instead of garlic) in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, using the frying pan that has the cover.
When the onions soften and turn translucent (without browning), add the chopped eggplant pulp and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the ground beef and sauté until it starts to brown. Stir in tomatoes, parsley, garlic, pinches of salt and pepper (to taste), and reduce heat. Simmer covered for 20 minutes or until the sauce melds and the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat, and set aside.
For the Bechamel Sauce
Preparation: In a saucepan, melt the butter on low heat. As soon as it starts to bubble (not brown) add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until there are no lumps, Add the milk slowly, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the sauce begins to thicken - creamy without being too thick (it will thicken further after removing from the heat). Remove from the heat and stir in salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow the sauce to cool for a few minutes before stirring in the egg yolk until well blended.
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
Preheat second frying pan over low heat. Increase heat when ready to sauté the eggplant.
Lightly sauté the eggplant halves in olive oil in the second frying pan. Start with a little oil (3 tablespoons) but have more at hand since eggplant absorbs a lot of oil and the pan could dry out. This step is simply to soften the eggplant a bit, so sauté quickly on both sides, remove, and drain on a rack (do not wipe off the oil).
Place the eggplant halves on the bottom of a baking or roasting pan. Sprinkle some of the cheese to cover the bottom of the well in the eggplant, then spoon in the filling to the top of the side rims. Spoon over the béchamel sauce (about 1 tablespoon for each piece), and place a slice of tomato on top. When all the eggplants are finished, sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the top.
Cook on the lowest oven rack setting until the béchamel is browned, the cheese on top is browned, and the eggplants are soft, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the eggplants from the pan with a spatula and serve warm.
For the less chunky sauce, when preparing the tomatoes, onions, and eggplant pulp, either use a food processor or grate them to make smaller pulpy pieces. Use with their liquids. Reduce simmer time to 10-15 minutes as it will take a little less time for the sauce to meld.
Some versions don't call for the tomato slice on top. If you don't use it, just sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the béchamel and cook the same way for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the béchamel browns and the eggplants are soft.